9:00pm Thursday 25th February 2010
A MOTHER has suffered final defeat in her bid to prevent her gravely injured child’s adoption – despite claims that her case was unfairly handled by a “hostile” family judge.
The mother, who is in her 20’s and from the Burnley area, went to London’s Appeal Court challenging a county court judge’s refusal to revoke an order placing her three-year-old daughter for adoption.
Judge Watson, sitting in Blackburn County Court, made the order in favour of Lancashire County Council in light of the grave injuries the child had suffered while in her father’s care.
Although the mother never harmed the girl, Judge Watson found that she “failed to protect her”.
The girl sustained severe head injuries “consistent with shaking” while in the care of her father, London’s Civil Appeal Court heard, and was rushed to hospital in Burnley after paramedics found her at home in a “collapsed state”.
The father later received a suspended sentence after admitting child cruelty, although he denied that he had ever “violently shaken” his daughter.
Care and placement orders were subsequently made in favour of the county council, and the mother’s bid to “revoke” those orders was at the heart of her Appeal Court challenge.
Her counsel, Paul Buckley, argued Judge Watson’s approach to the case was “fundamentally unfair”.
He identified 33 interventions by the judge during his “opening” to the court, many of which he claimed were “adverse or hostile”.
There were also 31 interruptions by the judge during the mother’s evidence, he told the Appeal Court, also claiming that the local authority’s witnesses had a comparatively “easy ride”.
But Lord Justice Thorpe, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick, concluded that there were no grounds for granting the mother permission to appeal.
It was clear that Judge Watson had formed a “firm view” about the case, he said, but added: “I don’t get the impression she had a closed mind, or was not open to being persuaded otherwise”.
The Appeal Court’s decision effectively shatters the mother’s hopes of retrieving custody of her daughter. She wept silently outside court after the hearing.